The publication of Fáilte Ireland’s updated guidance to facilitate the reopening of indoor hospitality was finally published close to midnight last Friday.
From today indoor hospitality can reopen for people who’re fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid in the past six months as well as children under 18 in their care.
And one major bone of contention between publicans and the Government has also been removed from the new guidelines.
As from today, only the lead person’s details need be recorded for a group entering the premises where formerly it had been suggested that everyone in the group needed to provide contact details.
According to the redrafted guidelines, “Businesses must keep a record of the time and date of arrival at the premises of a group/sole customer and the name and telephone number of the lead person in a group/sole customer for Covid-19 contact tracing. This information must be recorded for both walk-ins and pre-bookings”.
Among the other requirements are that the EU Digital Covid Certificate or HSE Covid-19 Vaccination Record (as issued at vaccination centres) will be the primary evidence used when going into a pub, restaurant, café or food court to access indoor hospitality.
Customers may also be asked for photo ID to verify the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
Following public health advice, the time-limit for sitting at tables has been removed. There’s now no limit to the amount of time consumers can sit at tables.
A maximum of six persons aged 13 or over are permitted at a table. This limit of six does not include accompanying children aged 12 or younger. The total combined capacity at a table cannot exceed 15 overall (maximum of six persons aged 13 and over). Mingling between tables is not allowed and counter service remains prohibited. The regulations provide for people to be served at tables only.
There’s no change to the closing time – currently Covid regulations require all premises to close at 11.30 pm.
Indoor areas should be well-ventilated.
The updated guidelines here can be found at Gov.ie/reopeninghospitality or on https://covid19.failteireland.ie/operational-guidelines/
“A temporary measure”
The new reopening guidelines were presented by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar TD and the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD.
“The restrictions being applied to this reopening are designed to be a temporary measure and hugely important for the sector and their customers,” said the Tánaiste, “I know that operating this new system will be inconvenient for business and could add to staff costs. It is, however, the only way we can reopen and stay open throughout this Delta wave. Hopefully, it will not be necessary in a few months’ time but it is good to have it in place in case it is.
“There will be teething problems and we will work with the industry to review and amend the regulations as needed and based on practical experience.”
Minister Martin added, “I’m acutely aware of the devastation the necessary public health restrictions have had on tourism and hospitality businesses since March 2020.
“The publication of updated guidance will help businesses and customers to adapt to a new and hopefully temporary regime which is aimed at protecting public health while allowing businesses to get back to what they do best.”
This then is the first phase for the reopening of the hospitality sector.
Vintners’ plea for patience
While many pubs will be opening for the first time since March 2020 the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has described the new guidelines as “onerous and impractical to operate”.
However it added that it’s vital that customers cooperate with publicans and their staff who’ll be working under challenging conditions with the documentation confirming a customer’s status having to be checked by pub staff at the front door.
“Unfortunately, the new guidelines government handed down to us will make it very difficult for publicans and staff to manage their indoor businesses,” commented VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “Our message to customers is simple: ‘please work with us as we get used to these new guidelines’.
“It’s not a practical system for business owners to operate so we’re asking people to be patient, cooperate and please remember that publicans and their staff are only doing their job.
“The Government made it clear this was the only solution to get pubs open so it’s this or remain closed until October at the earliest. While we’re far from happy about how our members are reopening it’s important to remember this is only a temporary measure and our expectation is that the requirement to check vaccine certs will be removed as soon as possible.”
VFI President Paul Moynihan, who runs his family pub in Donard, County Wicklow, added, “It’s only fair that pubs with no outdoor space are allowed reopen. While outdoor trading has been a success for some publicans, reopening indoors gives businesses a chance to make ends meet.
“Publicans having to request vaccine certs from people they’ve known for years is not where any of us expected to be but we need to get open.
“The key message I’ve received from publicans is that once we’re open we stay open. There can be no return to more Lockdowns, as the consequences of such a move for the trade don’t bear thinking about.”
“Relief & trepidation” in Dublin
In Dublin, the Licensed Vintners Association also acknowledged that this will be a difficult period for everyone in the hospitality sector and is calling on its members and the public to ensure they carefully implement the new rules.
The Association pointed out that the reopening comes as some Dublin pubs get ready to reopen their doors for the first time in 497 consecutive days.
“Being allowed to provide indoor service will come with a mixture of relief, hope and nervousness for many in the hospitality sector, especially those pubs in Dublin who have not been able to open their doors for the last 497 days,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “The relief of trading will undoubtedly be tinged with trepidation. There are a lot of mixed feelings about reopening and what it’s going to mean in terms of handling difficult customers and protecting the welfare of staff.
“For many in our sector this is not the way we wanted to reopen, but unfortunately it is the only option on the table.
“We would also ask the members of the public to work with the sector in helping us to make a success of these measures.
“All hospitality premises should know that any businesses that flout the rules will have the book thrown at them. This is far too important. Businesses taking chances pose risks to public health and also endanger the future of our sector. Everyone who is trading has to follow the guidelines.
“Of course the reopening of indoor hospitality is only the next step in this process. Our sector still has some way to go before we are operating normally. After all, we were told these were ‘temporary measures’. In the weeks ahead as the vaccine rollout progresses there will be a need for this system and the guidelines to be reviewed. There is still a long road ahead before our sector is truly back on track,” he warned.